Bipartisan bill helps improve child care

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The U.S. Senate last week produced another – but yet still somewhat rare – example of bipartisanship in overwhelmingly approving the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014.

The reauthorization bill was the product of more than two years of work led by U.S. Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

The Child Care Development Block Grant was the product of 1996 welfare reform legislation intended to promote employment by providing parents with child care vouchers. The law has been overdue for reauthorization since 2002.

More than 1.5 million children benefit from the federal child care subsidy program, which provides grants to the states so they can help low-incomes families afford child care. The bipartisan reauthorization bill requires states to devote more funding to training, professional development and professional advancement of child care workers and ensures that providers meet certain health and safety standards. It also requires criminal background checks for child care providers for the first time.

Burr and Mikulski are to be commended for working across the aisle as they spent long hours consulting with parents, childcare providers and early learning and child development experts to update the original law in order to expand access to and improve the quality of child care. The resulting legislation will help support child car providers, give parents greater peace of mind and better prepare children for the future by ensuring that child care centers are safe, healthy and nurturing facilities. The bill not only enhances quality and safety but also ensures that low-income families will continue to have access to affordable, quality child care.

Burr and Mikulski’s efforts to find common ground should serve as an example to other squabbling lawmakers in Washington. Their work harkens back to a time when members of Congress could put party aside when working for the best interests of their country and constituents.

We urge U.S. House members to follow their lead and approve the bill.